Oral surgery volunteering

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

I had the opportunity to assist in our OMFS department this August break. As a newly minted D3, this is my second visit to the department and let me tell you it was exhilarating!

Day 1

Well, we start with a patient cancellation. Cancellations have become the norm for my first few weeks as a D3. I found that these moments have been particularly useful in building up my patience, give me a chance to just slow down and think about nothing. I have meditated in a cube just waiting. I also heard a Ted talk about boredom and its utility in building neural connections. Make the most of the moment - it is what it is.

I opted to watch a few other procedures before the next patient's arrival, ask questions about x-ray interpretation and the OMFS specialty.

Then with an hour left on the clock, a patient showed up.

We completed two extractions. I got to refresh my memory on the PSA, MSA, IAN and long buccal infiltrations. The appointment also revisited the topics of blood thinners and their impact on oral surgery.

The upper tooth took a majority of the hour and then a resident swung by to complete the lower extraction. Clean up and all, we finished 30 minutes after the expected time.

We all have schedules, we all want to get home, but if you’re constantly looking at the clock, chances are you’re in the wrong place to start. If your appointments are running late during dental school, don’t sweat it. This is the time to learn, so be slow, anticipate delays and don't be too harsh on yourself.

All in all, an amazing day.

Day 2

I signed up for a morning and afternoon shift. I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed, got my morning routine done and was PUMPED to take on the day.

Again, a patient cancellation was followed by a surprise patient that ended a bit (long bit) little later expected. This is the theme of this whole OMFS experience.

That morning we completed 12 extractions! I have to say watching the process is so satisfying and I just loved every aspect of it. Each tooth came out in multiple pieces, but the job was done. This was my also the first time I assisted a surgical extraction.

I was reminded of why dentistry is such a good fit for me. Building a connection with this patient, comforting them and understanding and alleviating their pain meant a lot. It wasn’t just extractions, but helping this person get to a place of comfort that made the process rewarding. I feel confident in my conversational abilities and do not have trouble talking to strangers. Dental experiences add a layer that I practically get the privilege of making an individuals life better. That's part of my future job - isn't that something!?

We noticed interesting soft tissue patterns intraorally, which proved to stretch my mind when coming up with differential diagnoses.

That afternoon, you guessed it, cancellation, surprise patient, delayed end time. In other words - patience, persistence and payoff.

This was more of a consultation, but no less a learning experience. A chronic pain patient came in to figure out what was wrong with their jaw. We analyzed the old panoramic images took another pan to be up-to-date but could not come up with anything conclusive.

I learned about possibilities I didn’t even consider. This included nerve damage after extraction and muscle tightness that can be relieved by massages and lasers. This prompted me to revisit an "acupuncture and dentistry" article I had read some time back.

I also got to see the first part of an implant placement process for an overdenture on site 22 and 27. We just finished our implants course back in July, so seeing the techniques in action helped ingrain the knowledge.I learn best and retain info, pretty much forever, once I’ve practically done something. It’s my dancer brain. Reading is one thing, practicing for the first time is another and then real-life show-time pressure is a whole different ball game.

I’m grateful for the experience, my patients that served as teachers for my spirit and dental school and for the personal days I accumulated by volunteering - more time with the family and pup in the future. Interestingly, I didn’t even know we got the perk of "personal days" by signing up but I’m excited to have more time with family in the next break. When you’re as far as I am, a couple days makes a difference.

Also, can I just say, I love oral surgery. I’m not even exaggerating. Everything I witnessed during the two days was fascinating. I know blood and bone and tissue may make people squeamish, but this was just next level in my eyes. Best believe a large portion of my future practice will involve extractions and implants.

That Dental Gal is excited for the future!

Stay safe and keep smiling.

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